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February 6, 2017

Hands-on learning research that benefits the economy, environment

Research consistently shows that children who have opportunities to actively investigate natural settings and engage in problem-based learning greatly benefit from the experiences. They gain skills, interests, knowledge, aspirations and motivation to learn more.

But how can educators provide these rich opportunities in densely populated urban areas where resources and access to natural areas are limited? With support from the National Science Foundation (NSF), Pace University educator Lauren Birney and her team are getting middle school students involved in an ambitious restoration program called the "Billion Oyster Project." The students study New York Harbor and the extensive watershed that empties into it, and conduct field research in support of restoring native oyster habitats.

"This National Science Foundation grant has made the 'Curriculum and Community Enterprise for Restoration Science (CCERS) Project' possible, advancing environmental restoration through experiential and inquiry-based learning with New York City students and teachers involved at the core of the research," explains Birney, director of Pace University's STEM Collaboratory. "Pace University serves as the prime research institution leading a city-wide collaboration emphasizing the benefits of citizen science to underrepresented students in New York City. We are enormously grateful to the NSF for supporting this work and creating such outstanding digital imagery depicting the 'real work' of the project!"

This research involves a broad partnership of institutions and community resources, including Pace University, the New York City Department of Education, the Columbia University Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the New York Academy of Sciences, the New York Harbor Foundation, the New York Aquarium, The River Project, Good Shepherd Services, University of Maryland's Center for Environmental Science, Smartstart Evaluation and Research, Gaylen Moore Program Evaluation Services, and others.

Credit: National Science Foundation

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